We at MAKE love The Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, so when we heard that its directors, Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich, were going to capture their community of artists and engineers (“Tinkerers”) into the pages of a book called The Art of Tinkering, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. And you know what? They have exceeded my very high hopes for what they’d create.

This book is not just a must-read, it’s a must-make. In fact, many of the artists featured in the book took on the challenge of hacking it. Check out the fun video (above) capturing a few of the ways the tinkerers destroyed … transformed the book.

The Art of Tinkering felt like an instant classic as soon as I opened it—as if I couldn’t imagine that we didn’t have this book before it was published. It’s the book that I and reportedly at least one mentor of mine wish we had written. I imagine several other dozen friends must also have Art-of-Tinkering envy, which for me quickly turned to utter joy as I got lost in its pages, in awe of the density of information and inspiration. From artist studios to maker families to summer camps to graduate schools of education, this book is sure to have a broad impact.

It is not your typical “art” book. Every chapter profiles a different tinkerer, then they follow up each lushly illustrated profile and process spread with an as-beautifully photographed, easy-to-do project through which you can dabble in the same medium or theme each Tinkerer enjoys. All projects are accessible and appealing to even the youngest makers. Finally, after the hands-on exploration, each chapter bursts back out again to reveal many other related projects and artists.

We asked for a book excerpt of The Art of Tinkering to illustrate this pattern for you. Thumbnails of the three sections included in that excerpt are below to entice you to click and download this wonderful gift!

Jie Qi

See an extraordinary gallery of papercraft in “Electronic Popables” with Jie Qi.

Paul Spooner

Take a tour of some curious creatures and a great shop in “Absurdist Automata” with Paul Spooner.

Grace Kim

Tear into the closet of the future in “Wondrous Wearables” with Grace Kim.

Besides Grace, Jie, and Paul, the book does in-depth profiles of a couple dozen other Tinkerers: Cris Benton, Ranjit Bhatnagar, Cardboard Institute of Technology, Nicole Catrett, Arthur Ganson, Shih Chieh Huang, Tim Hunkin, Grace Kim, Walter Kitundu, Leigh Anne Langwell, Moxie Lieberman, Bernie Lubell, Ken Murphy, Paul Nosa, Jie Qi, Danny Scheible., Paul Spooner, AnnMarie Thomas, Dan Trax-Caffee, Barry Underwood, Asia Ward, Scott Weaver. They “meet 150+ makers working at the intersection of art, science, and technology in all.” The book includes a foreword by Dale Dougherty and an introduction by Leah Buechley.

If you don’t know Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich, the co-directors of The Tinkering Studio, this book will serve as something of a biography of sorts, as they introduce you to their life work: seeking out those people blissfully occupying the intersection of art, science, mechanism, and delight and forming them into a community of effervescent artist and engineers. These Tinkerers-in-Residence collaborate with them in the Studio to fantastic effect. They are all about getting kids’ and adults’ hands dirty all around the world. The Tinkering Studio provides a constant stream of inspiration and partnership to MAKE in our shared ambitious goal of rekindling a love of creating things from many sources—from scratch, from reuse, from circuits, from the ideas of others, from anything that catches one’s fancy. The Tinkerers in The Art of Tinkering will strike any reader of MAKE as a familiar breed, as they’re the same kind of people we call “makers” here at MAKE. In fact, a number of them have appeared in the pages of our magazine, on our blog, in online hangouts, and at our events, often thanks to Karen and Mike.

If you know someone who loves making or Maker Faire or the Exploratorium or just the delightful little moments of everyday life, make sure this book makes it into their hands. And don’t forget to top your gift with an LED and a 9v battery, so that your happy recipient can tinker right away with the conductive ink on the cover.

Buy The Art of Tinkering now from the Exploratorium. (They even ship internationally!)

Or you can pre-order from Amazon to get your copy in February. (You read that right—you can get your copy months before those poor souls waiting on Amazon by buying it straight from the Exploratorium!)

Michelle "Binka" Hlubinka

Michelle, or Binka, is the Director of Custom Programs for Maker Media, overseeing publications, outreach, and programming for kids, families, and schools. Before joining Maker Media in 2007, she worked at the Exploratorium, in Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, and as a curriculum designer for various publishers and educational researchers. When she’s not supporting future makers, including her two young sons, Binka does some making of her own, most often as a visual artist.


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